bill bodkin feels the riddim…
Kings and Queens might be future roots reggae unit John Brown’s Body’s first album in four years — but there’s absolutely no rust at all here. The band’s ninth album combines the timeless sun-soaked breeziness of classic roots reggae with the electronically enhanced ‘future roots’ style that band has implemented over the past few years.
It’s a unique approach to reggae music; we spoke to JBB drummer Tommy Benedetti back in the Summer of 2011 he gave us a glimpse of JBB’s future roots sound…
“[We’re] building off our inspirations, which was definitely the earlier dub and reggae stuff from the ’70s and ’80s. That’s the stuff we’ve been listening to for 20 years now, and it still inspires us ’til this day. We do use the blocks of that–mostly the drum and bass and the approach, the horn section — those elements we use as a springboard to what we’re doing [now]. But here we are in 2011, and we don’t want to be rehashing and doing stuff that’s already been done. It’s our job as musicians right now to inject experience and new sounds into the conversation.”
Those new sounds were, according to Benedetti, the beautifully constructed sonic layering and subtleties that made groups like Radiohead and Massive Attack the stuff of legend. So don’t worry, you reggae purists out there–John Brown’s Body isn’t going to produce a electro-reggae album that sounds more like Skrillex than Peter Tosh.
This mash-up of traditional and modern roots reggae results in a very familiar yet at the same time very distinct sound, which is beautifully evidenced on Kings & Queens.
No track exemplifies this mash-up like the absolutely lush track ‘Plantation.’ The easy like Sunday morning vibe, the vintage reggae horns, the angelically melodic vocals of Elliot Martin and the subtle electronic beats create a track that transports you body and soul to a warm beach, sweaty beer bottle in hand.
But JBB isn’t just about the sound — their lyrics, much like the reggae music that made reggae music what is it today, has lyrics of protest, peace and unity. Go back to Kings and Queens for a second or even third listen and you’ll discover the poetry JBB delivers with rhythmic aplomb.
We’d be doing Kings and Queens a big disservice if we didn’t focus on just how good of a singer Elliot Martin is. It sounds silly to say, but the man’s vocal chords are heaven-sent. He has soul, bounce, rhythm, peace, beauty and joy in his voice, you can’t just help but become intoxicated with it.
In the grand scape of the reggae world, John Brown’s Body is probably of the more under-appreciated outfits out there. If you feel that reggae music is just stale and boring, you need to do yourself a favor and start digging in the crates of John Brown’s Body’s back catalog and then get prepared for April 16th when Kings and Queens officially drops.